I'll preface this by saying that I've been taking the world's worst internet class. The professor has asked us to write 250 words weekly about articles or books she's asked us to read. Now, if you know me (and if you're reading this blog, chances are you know enough about me to believe this) I can't write 250 words. TWO HUNDRED FIFTY WORDS is for pussies. It's like asking me to write 5 sentences about something that I could write a book about. And the worst part is that no matter how much I write (trust me: over 250 words. every. single. week) the professor has not ONCE given me personal feedback. Ever. Which simultaneously makes me want to punch her in the face and write like eight pages just to see if she's paying attention. I digress. So, for the final project we were asked to write the usual 250 words about the "state of education" or what we as educators will find most challenging in our future. Again. Something I could write a book about. But today, I read a friend's Facebook status that read something about getting her K-4th grader ready for college and I just had to share this. I figure if the dummy professor isn't reading it, I should at least share it with you all.
I seriously hope that none of you have a barfing child anytime soon. And if you do, that you have a large amount of wine to fill up on while you're holding the hair out of the puke. I figure it's killing the germs...at least for me. Right? Enjoy:
I have started to write this for about three weeks in my head. I start, think I know what I’m going to say, and then something else happens either in the media or in my job as a teacher to add fuel to my fire. I believe that the biggest challenge that educators face is a generation of children who would like to be spoon-fed the answers, are not able to conceptualize, who get frustrated when asked to think critically, and many of whom are unable to make informed statements about anything they didn’t first hear from someone else. In the past few weeks and months, I have had conversations with educators from all walks of life and from all different teaching backgrounds and sadly, I feel like we all say the same things – we are worried about kids.
Naturally, we teach in a society where we are forced to think about funding and testing and all the other frustrations that those go along with, but while they are frustrations, they aren’t really all that new or different. There is always, always going to be red tape in education. Always. It’s time to turn our focus toward something that we CAN fix. Just today, I read about the number one worst baby toy in 2011 – an electronic device similar to an iPad. For an infant. And I wonder why children come into my preschool classroom and don’t know how to PLAY. It’s been my experience over my ten years as a preschool teacher that children are more and more unable to be in open-ended play situations without being guided in some way or another. I’m a preschool teacher and part of the joy of my job is that it’s so child driven. I get to do what the kids want to do and make my lesson plans based on their interests. Recently, though, I’ve noticed a trend toward more teacher led activities – because the children can’t seem to come up with ideas on their own. When I ask, “what do you want to learn about?” I get blank stares. I want to say to them, “listen up! This is the last time it’s going to be like this – someone is going to get to tell you WHAT to learn for the rest of your life beyond this point!” It’s sad and shocking and it’s no wonder these same children are failing in grade school and beyond.
I believe it comes down to being an advocate for these children rather than trying to place blame. It’s hard work, for sure, but it becomes an issue of advocating for play in early childhood classrooms (early childhood means up to and including the age of EIGHT) and for different approaches in teaching older students. More play, less rote memorization. More writing, less homework. More questioning their opinions, less teaching them to fill in the right answer. While I know that I am starry eyed in some ways about this, I do believe that we can change the future of American education. I’m not certain yet how that will be done, but I do know that I will be a part of that work in some capacity.